hong kong

Eradicating a Democracy Movement   5%

The days in Hong Kong have recently been bookended by two numbers, neither of them comforting. One, the day’s COVID-19 infections, is announced at a set time by health officials, and despite the city’s relatively low numbers compared with Europe and the United States, remains stubbornly high compared with some regional neighbors.

The other is compiled more chaotically and is in many ways more worrying. Beginning in the early morning, alerts land on social media, normally in the form of a note written by a trusted associate on a prodemocracy politician’s Facebook page, alerting the public that the politician has been taken by police. In some cases, the arrests are filmed, shaky clips that capture the moment a group of officers descends on a sleepy suspect whose alleged crimes might be as minor as shouting a few words, but whose punishment may be as severe as life in prison. News of the first arrest is almost always followed by news of others, the tally ticking upward through the day.

Even with this now-familiar rhythm, buttressed by tightening political repression and persistent sickness, this morning was stunning. Before 7 a.m., reports of the first arrest landed in the familiar form, but unlike days before, when the number of suspects would settle at a handful or even a dozen, for the next few hours the number rose sharply. In total, 53 prodemocracy politicians, activists, lawyers, and academics were arrested, police said. (The number was more than double the 25 new COVID-19 cases announced.)

The arrestees were rounded up for allegedly committing subversion, a violation of the national-security law imposed last year by Chinese authorities and an offense that carries the possibility of a life sentence. They allegedly took part, to varying extents, in an unofficial primary election held last summer by prodemocracy groups. The primary was part of a plan based on laam caau, an idea adopted by the most fervent protesters that roughly translates to “burn with us,” a philosophy of mutual destruction meant to punish Beijing. China’s intention appears to be different: to reshape Hong Kong’s political system into one that maintains the veneer of a democracy, which sets the city apart from the mainland, but is completely devoid of meaningful opposition, eliminating the unwanted surprises and embarrassing public rebukes of the past two years.

Those taken spanned the political spectrum, and generations of Hong Kong’s prodemocracy movement. They included an American lawyer, a social worker, and dozens of younger, more radical activists who rose to prominence during the 2019 protests. Officers from the police’s national-security unit also visited the newsrooms of three media outlets, demanding that staff turn over materials to authorities within a week, and raided the office of a well-known law firm. No longer satisfied with simply stifling Hong Kong’s boisterous opposition, the authorities have sought to eradicate the prodemocracy camp and anyone even loosely affiliated with it. The future of Hong Kong’s already stunted democratic system looks gravely imperiled.

[Read: A newsroom at the edge of autocracy]

The breadth of the authorities’ response today pointed to the surprising success of what at first appeared to be a wildly optimistic effort to sustain Hong Kong’s democracy effort. The primary contest, organized by the former law professor Benny Tai, was meant to select candidates who would then run in legislative elections scheduled for last September. Tai, who was instrumental in coordinating the 2014 Umbrella Movement and was subsequently jailed for his role, envisioned prodemocracy candidates taking their struggle inside the halls of power by winning a majority of seats in an assembly whose electoral system heavily favors Beijing’s preferred candidates. They could then use their newfound power to upend the legislative process, possibly forcing the city’s chief executive to resign. If Beijing interfered, or used the chief executive to do so, the fallacy of the “one country, two systems” framework under which Hong Kong is governed would be on full display.

The idea was bold, but prodemocracy figures were coming off a resounding victory in local elections months prior and the government—in Hong Kong as well as in Beijing—continued to ignore many demands and renege on promises. Over a sweltering weekend in July, people waited for hours at businesses that had been turned into temporary polling stations—a budget lingerie shop, sympathetic restaurants, and a vintage bus among them—to cast their ballots. The event was orderly and ran without a hitch, factors that perhaps made it more alarming to authorities, running counter to the image they had hoped to portray of protesters as a motley crew of violent, foreign-funded radicals intent on destroying the city.

The vote went ahead despite the national-security law’s enactment 11 days earlier and warnings from officials and pro-Beijing media that it might violate the new law, among them Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive—and someone who has never won a popular election herself. In total, some 610,000 people cast ballots, far exceeding expectations and breathing an air of reality into Tai’s idea. (Shortly afterward, a number of candidates who won the primaries were disqualified from the September election, and the polls themselves were postponed because of the pandemic.) Still, warnings from the authorities were not followed up with actions, and in the subsequent months, the polls were largely relegated to memory, until this morning.

Police said about 1,000 officers took part in the operation, arresting 53 people. These people—for organizing themselves and attempting to win an election, then planning to use the power granted to them by voters to reject government proposals—are “suspected to be involved in the crime of overthrowing or interfering seriously to destroy the Hong Kong government’s legal execution of duties,” Secretary for Security John Lee said. At a press conference, police unveiled a flow chart highlighting the steps that led to the alleged offense, including “announced to hold [sic] a primary election in July” and “publicized at [sic] social media.”

The individuals arrested weren’t just election winners or high-profile political figures. Among them, local media reported, was Lee Chi-yung, who campaigned on a platform of increasing accessibility for people with disabilities, an issue he was drawn to after his severely disabled daughter found it difficult to make her way around the city when she was alive. Lee received just 304 votes. Another, according to a Facebook post, was Jeffrey Andrews, regarded as the city’s first ethnic-minority social worker, who assisted refugees and campaigned for a more inclusive Hong Kong, work that drew accolades from Manchester United and Cathay Pacific. John Clancey, an American lawyer who has lived in Hong Kong for more than two decades and was involved with the group that organized the primaries, said that he hoped people would continue to work for democracy and human rights in Hong Kong as he was slowly led away by police, a crutch tucked under his arm. It is unclear if and when those arrested will be formally charged.

[Read: How history gets rewritten]

Last year’s postponed legislative elections are now slated to be held this September, but it seems unlikely that the vote will resemble anything close to the semi-democratic contest it was in the past. Many of the most popular candidates could be behind bars and, even if they are not, disqualification of prodemocracy supporters is now the norm. Furthermore, today’s arrests show that any organized challenge to the authorities carries the possibility of violating the national-security law. The moves all but ensure that the city’s unpopular pro-Beijing parties will avoid the type of humiliating rout faced during November’s local elections. “It was clear that Beijing was not going to let them be embarrassed like that again,” a senior Western diplomat told me.

Though unofficial, the primaries may well have been Hong Kong’s last free vote, an act of resistance that—while lacking the violent flourishes of Molotov cocktails or water cannons that helped garner worldwide attention for much of 2019—showed both the potential power of an organized opposition wielding even limited clout in a system tipped steeply against it, and the authorities’ extreme fear of it.

Claudia Mo, a former prodemocracy lawmaker who resigned from the legislature in protest along with her colleagues last year, told me recently that she was exhausted by the past two years. Officials, she said as her aides packed up the contents of her office, were working to build an atmosphere of fear. “They are trying to create this sensation of the high walls of the authorities closing in on you,” she said, “and you should be feeling suffocated.”

Mo was arrested today as well.

Hong Kong government strongly objects to US report critical of Beijing   14%

The Hong Kong government said it “strongly” objects to a US congressional report critical of Beijing’s handling of the city, calling the report “biased, politically motivated and not reflecting the

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Flipping licence plates, laser jammers: Hong Kong car racing crackdown uncovers gadgets for fast and furious  

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Teachers, principal stranded in Britain by Covid-19 travel ban as Hong Kong international schools reopen  

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Hong Kong decries latest US sanctions over opposition arrests as insane, shameless and despicable   -33%

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Hong Kongs growing sense of identity as a Chinese city is natural and should be embraced   18%

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United States imposes sanctions on six pro-China officials over Hong Kong mass arrests   10%

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At least four suspects released on bail after being accused of helping Hong Kong fugitives flee; others expected to follow, source says   -13%

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National security law: Beijing mulling public office ban on British National (Overseas) passport holders in Hong Kong   9%

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Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office lashes out at foreign countries over condemnation of mass opposition arrests   -8%

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Hong Kong arrests threaten passage of EU-China investment deal, European Parliament members say  

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Arbitrators eBRAM offers quick mediation of contractual disputes for HK$200 as Covid-19 roils Hong Kongs small businesses   -50%

An arbitrator backed by Hong Kong’s government is preparing for contractual disputes to increase in the new year, as the coronavirus outbreak disrupts business operations and work arrangements in a city that is still struggling with its worst recession on record.Disputes will last until business activities slowly return to normal in 2022, said Thomas So Shiu-tsung, director of the Electronic Business Related Arbitration & Mediation (eBRAM) centre. The non-profit arbitrator, which started…

Tencent-backed video-sharing app Kuaishou wins green light from Hong Kong to raise up to US$6 billion   9%

Beijing-based Kuaishou Technology, the world’s second-largest video-sharing app, has won the green light from Hong Kong to raise roughly US$5 billion to US$6 billion, potentially the city’s largest IPO in over a year, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday.The company, in which Tencent Holdings, China’s largest games publisher, owns a 21.6 per cent stake, was cleared by the listing committee of the Hong Kong stock exchange on Thursday night. The nine-year-old company can now launch…

Hang Seng Index tops pre-pandemic high on Alibaba, Tencent, CNOOC rally while China stocks slump by most in four months   60%

Hong Kong stocks rose, with the benchmark index recouping all the losses sparked by the coronavirus outbreak a year ago. Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings rallied after reports saying the US decided against banning US investments in two of Asia’s biggest companies.The Hang Seng Index gained 0.9 per cent to 28,496.86 at the close trading on Thursday, taking the gauge above 28,341.04 on January 22 last year, a day before China announced the lockdown of Wuhan, the epicentre of the Covid…

IPO-prospect Kuaishou has a big issue how to bag a profit from the 300 million who use its short video app  

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Hong Kongs Tracker Fund to resume investing in companies sanctioned by US following U-turn by manager State Street Global  

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Hong Kong property tycoon loses billions as business empire unravels in battle with debt collectors   30%

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Hang Seng Index retreats after attempt to erase stock losses triggered by Covid-19, Wuhan lockdown   5%

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11 Hong Kongers Arrested for Allegedly Aiding Hong Kong 12 Escape   10%

National security police arrested 11 people in Hong Kong on Thursday, including a prominent pro-democracy lawyer and district councillor, for allegedly aiding the attempt by 12 Hong Kongers to escape the city by sea for Taiwan last year. The arrests came a week after a massive sweep by national security police that saw 53 people […]

Hong Kong Police Use National Security Law to Block Site Chronicling 2019 Protests   46%

Hong Kong authorities have reportedly used new powers under the National Security Law to block a website that chronicled data about the 2019 Hong Kong protests. The unprecedented move has raised fears that, after decades of existing outside of China’s Great Firewall, Hong Kong may soon be facing political censorship on its internet. Citing unnamed […]

Hong Kong mass arrests: A stark step in Beijings drive for control  

Hong Kong police arrested more than 50 politicians and activists Wednesday, in a sign of how drastically Beijing has curtailed political freedoms.

US sanctions six Hong Kong officials over their alleged role in security law arrests  

The US is blacklisting six Hong Kong officials, including police chiefs, who it blames for a Beijing-led crackdown on demonstrators under the national security law, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Hong Kong braces for internet restrictions after web domain firm says it will block sites that contravene public interest   -50%

Web operators in Hong Kong have been warned they face being blocked by the region’s domain registrar under a new policy banning “inappropriate content,” including any deemed illegal or “disruptive to the operation of government.”
Read Full Article at RT.com

Dozens of Hong Kong pro-democracy figures arrested in one of China's biggest crackdowns   25%

More than 50 opposition and pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong have been arrested in the latest sign of Beijing's intolerance of political dissent.

Editorial: The last gasps of Hong Kong democracy   -5%

It's no coincidence that China chose a volatile and sensitive time in America to round up pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Protesters to Seek Asylum in U.S.   -20%

The five men fled by boat to Taiwan in July, soon after China imposed Hong Kong’s harsh national security law. This week, they landed in New York.

Five Hong Kong democracy protesters arrive in US to seek asylum  

Five Hong Kong democracy protesters who reportedly fled to Taiwan have arrived in the United States intending to seek asylum, an activist group said on Saturday.